Collins, Barnabas

Collins, Barnabas

(pop culture)

Barnabas Collins was a vampire character introduced into the story line of the daytime television soap opera Dark Shadows. He went on to become the show’s central character and saved it from early cancellation. Dark Shadows, the gothic tale of the Collins family, had begun in 1966 on ABC’s afternoon schedule, however, by early 1967 the show was facing cancellation. Threatened with that fate, producer Dan Curtis began to experiment successfully with supernatural elements. Finally, he decided to add a vampire.

Barnabas, played by actor Jonathan Frid, made his first appearance in episode 210. Willie Loomis, looking for a hidden treasure, discovered a secret room in the nearby mausoleum which contained a coffin secured shut with a chain. Not knowing what he was doing, he released Barnabas from his prison of many decades. In the next episode, Barnabas presented himself at the door of Collinswood, the family estate, as the family’s long lost English cousin. He received permission to take up residence in the Old House, the former family manor. In his search for blood, Barnabas discovered Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott), the image of his long lost love whom Barnabas vampirized in an attempt to bring her into his world. Barnabas’s attacks upon Maggie led to the introduction of Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall), a blood specialist. Brought in to deal with Maggie’s illness, she discovered Barnabas’ nature, but rather than destroying him, she fell in love. In her infatuation, she initiated a process to cure him.

At this point, Barnabas’s Collins and Dark Shadows had become a phenomenon of daytime television. As the audience grew, the decision was made to give Barnabas a history. Through the instrument of a séance, the cast of Dark Shadows was thrust into the 1790s to assume the roles of their ancestors or eighteenth-century counterparts. The new story line began with episode 366. In 1795 Barnabas was the son of family patriarch Joshua Collins. As the story developed, the family became host to Andre du Prés and his daughter Josette DuPres Collins (Kathryn Leigh Scott), Barnabas’s fiancée, who arrived from their plantation in Martinique for the wedding. Josette was accompanied by her maid, Angélique Bouchard (played by Lara Parker, a new addition to the cast), who was a witch. Angélique, in her desire for everything her employers possessed, moved on Barnabas but was repelled. She then turned on Josette and through her witchcraft caused Josette to marry Barnabas’s uncle Jeremiah Collins instead. Barnabas killed Jeremiah in a duel.

Eventually, Barnabas was tricked into marrying Angélique, but when he discovered her occult actions, he shot her. Believing that she was dying, Angélique cursed Barnabas with the words that set the pattern of his character for the future, “I set a curse on you, Barnabas Collins. You will never rest. And you will never be able to love. Whoever loves you will die. That is my curse and you will live with it through all eternity.” As the words died out, a vampire bat flew into the room and headed straight for Barnabas’s throat. He died from the attack only to arise a vampire. He decided that Josette should join him in his vampiric existence, and began to drain her of blood. Before he could finish the transformation, however, Angélique’s spirit lured Josette to a cliff, where she fell to her death. Jeremiah Collins having learned of his son’s condition, locked him in the mausoleum and chained him up to stop the plague of his vampiric attacks.

With episode 461, the story line returned to the present. Barnabas had been given a history and a complex personality. Besides his blood thirst, he had a moral sensitivity, the ability to show great passion and love, and was the victim of great suffering. In Angélique he had an enemy who returned in various guises to thwart his plans for happiness. His adventures would continue for almost 800 more Dark Shadows episodes. In 1970 Dark Shadows creator/producer Curtis borrowed the cast for a feature movie, House of Dark Shadows, at the close of which Barnabas was killed. Thus he did not appear in the 1971 follow-up, Night of Dark Shadows. In 1990 Barnabas’s story was revived when NBC began a prime-time version of Dark Shadows. It covered the basic story line of the emergence of Barnabas Collins (portrayed by Ben Cross) in the present and his origin in the 1790s prior to its cancellation after only one season.

In 1966 Marilyn Ross (pseudonym of Daniel Ross), began what would become 33 Dark Shadows novels based upon the television series. Barnabas appeared first in the sixth volume and his name and image dominated it for the remaining titles. The first issue of the comic book Dark Shadows (from Gold Key), which included a picture of Barnabas on the cover of most issues, appeared in March 1969. The series continued through 1976. In 1992 a new Dark Shadows comic based on the NBC series was initiated by Innovation Comics. In spite of the television series being canceled, Innovation’s comic book continued beyond the television story with a fresh story line until Innovation’s demise in 1994.

By 1968, Barnabas’s image began to appear on a wide variety of products, among the first being the “Dark Shadows” Game from gum card, Whitman, and a Halloween costume. Through 1969, the variety of paraphernalia included another set of trading cards, two jigsaw puzzles, pillows, a poster, and several model kits. Other items appeared over the years, and a new set of memorabilia was generated in response to the 1991 television series.

Collins was only the second vampire of modern history to gain a wide public following. In spite of occasional rumors to the contrary, there appears little likelihood that a new Dark Shadows series will come to television, however, the continuation of Dark Shadows conventions and the numerous new Dark Shadows writings, ensure that Barnabas will have high visibility at least as long as those people who watched the original series on television survive. In early 2010, director Tim Burton confirmed that he was directing a Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas.


Hamrick, Craig. Barnabas & Company: The Cast of the TV Classic Dark Shadows. Lincoln, NB: iU-niverse, Inc., 2003. 276 pp.
Howard, Malia. Jonathan Frid: An Actor’s Curious Journey (A Career Biography). Privately printed, 2001.
Scott, Kathryn Leigh. The Dark Shadows Companion: 25th Anniversary Collection. Los Angeles: Pomegranate Press, 1990. 208 pp.
———, Jim Pierson, and David Selby. The Dark Shadows Almanac: Millennium Edition. Los Angeles: Pomegranate Press, 2000. 271 pp.
Stockel, Shirley, and Victoria Weidner. A Guide to Collecting “Dark Shadows” Memorabilia. Florissant, MO: Collinwood Chronicle, 1992. 107 pp.
Thompson, Jeff. The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis: Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker and Other Productions, 1966–2006. Jeffersonville, NC: McFarland & Company, 2009. 208 pp.
The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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